The pantheon in the middle ages

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What happened to the Pantheon as a building during the passage of time between its Hadrianic dedication and its appropriation by the Church almost half a millennium later? The relevant facts are scarce, but there can be little doubt that the building was maintained as well as admired in the first centuries after its construction. Supporting this assumption is an inscription on the front architrave of the portico recording that the Rotunda was restored in AD 202. In the first half of the third century, the Christian historian Iulius Africanus (c. 160-c. 240) reports the establishment of a library in or near the Pantheon, which may suggest a change in the use of the building. In 357, the Pantheon was still in good enough condition to impress the emperor Constantius II during his visit to Rome from Constantinople. At the end of the fourth century, the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330-c. 400) wrote that the emperor had been amazed at Rome’s buildings, including the Pantheon, which was “like a rounded city-district, vaulted over in lofty beauty.” By this time, Rome was changing into a Christian city in the wake of emperor Constantine the Great’s legitimization of Christianity in 313. At Constantine’s behest and with his sponsorship, the city received a cathedral, the Lateran Church, and the great basilica of St. Peter was rising over the body of the apostle outside the walls of the Eternal City, to be followed by an almost equally impressive basilica dedicated to St. Paul. Meanwhile, in 330, Constantine shifted the empire’s capital to Constantinople. It is uncertain how these significant urban, political, and religious events affected the Pantheon and the role it played in daily life in Rome. Its survival and reputation were such that, little more than a decade after Constantius’s visit to Rome, either in 368 or 370, the Rotunda was explicitly mentioned as the place in which an imperial law was announced to the public. Thereafter, we hear nothing about the Pantheon until the early seventh century, when Pope Boniface IV requested the emperor’s permission to transform the building into a church.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Pantheon
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Antiquity to the Present
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781139015974
ISBN (Print)9780521809320
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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